Above all else, this library must remain secret. This archive is one of the last hopes for humanity, for everyone. Without this, Calixa, Vesperati, Kai'Draen, Man, Erinyan, Tethyd, Sidhe, and Dragon would all suffer in the slums of barbarism. We are one of the final bulwarks against the shadow the Eight herald, the endless night of savagery.
-The Necromancer's Notes, Custodian's Contract, Mission Statement
Thaen's eyes fluttered open.
Mirsari's head lay on his chest, her hand slowly running through the tuft of fur on his torso, still half asleep. Thaen was surprised that she was even awake. Last night, they had a late dinner, and a later night that ended with them settling down, cuddling, and Mirsari reading a hefty treatise on alchemical theory. That book lay on the covers, still open to the page she had been reading when Thaen had fallen asleep.
"I like you," Mirsari murmured.
"I never would have guessed," Thaen said, "seeing as you like cuddling up with me at night." He paused. "Not that I have a problem with that." He leaned down and kissed her.
"You never told me," Mirsari said after their lips separated, "how you got those scars on your lips."
"Did I ever introduce you to my friend Laidu Tsung?" Thaen asked.
"You're friends with him?" Mirsari sat up, and the morning light shone on the sleek dark fur of her back. She wore a sleeping garment similar to traditional female Vesperati undergarment,wrapping around the top of her body, secured to her waist, leaving her flanks free. Instead of simply covering the bosom and securing it so it didn't shift too much in flight (which could be deadly), this covered more of her torso, giving Mirsari some sense of modesty.
"Of course," Thaen said. "I lived with him for some years. This," he said, pointing to his lips, "is what happened when I tasted his blood. Turns out, it still burns outside his body."
"Oh?" Mirsari asked, turning to face him. "You must tell me more."
"Maybe some other time," Thaen said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He stretched, rising from the bed. His pajama pants, in the traditional four colors of the Vesperati -red, gold, white, and black- stood out against the pale carpet. He sat down again.
"There's another thing that I wanted to know," Mirsari murmured when she threw her arms around his neck, leaning on his shoulders. "Before, when I had been wounded, there were many Vesperati, even some of other races, who assumed that, because I had these disfiguring scars, I would be desperate for companionship. They sought to take advantage of my assumed desperation to use me for a night of pleasure. Of course, I rejected that, but now that I've been restored, it's different. It's clear you're not repulsed by me," she said, "but you never even attempted to make any more intimate advances. Why?"
"I'm a bit of a traditionalist," Thaen said. He leaned back and kissed her again. "Traditionally, those advances are only first made on the wedding night, so the man doesn't betray the woman's trust, or the woman the man's." He shuddered. "Plus, my father would kill me."
"So... you're evaluating if I'm a good wife? Is that the end goal?" Mirsari asked.
Thaen nodded. "To some extent." He paused. "It's a courtship process that takes a while, one that I've... no, we've, started on."
"I don't know if I could," Mirsari said. "Nothing against you," she assured him, "but after what I learned Vesperati marriage entails, I couldn't go through-"
"What did you learn?" Thaen asked.
"I'd be only slightly better than a slave," she said. "That's the traditionalist view."
YOU ARE READING
When Laidu, a half-human, half-dragon Ranger, rescues a mysterious girl from slavers, he doesn't know it but he's in for a world of trouble. Teaming up with an insane scholar, a chatty assassin, and two mercenaries, they go to take the girl -Kyra- h...